Review: Contour Design iSee for iPhone 3G
Officially less than a week old, Apple's iPhone 3G already has its first collection of protective cases, designed to shield the device against scratch and scuff damage, as well as fingerprints and smudges. Today, we're doing brief reviews of the first dozen iPhone 3G cases, some of which are modestly redesigned versions of original iPhone designs, and others completely new to this device. This review covers Contour Design's iSee for iPhone 3G ($30).
Whenever there’s a new Apple device, Contour Design is always early with at least one hard plastic case to cover it. This year, Contour has shipped two—the almost completely clear plastic iSee, and the opaque black plastic Hardskin—which are the exact same design, only in different colors. iSee is, as the name suggests, designed to let you see your iPhone 3G with minimal encumbrance from the case. Each of the cases comes with four pieces: a two-piece shell that covers almost all of the iPhone 3G’s back and sides, as well as part of its front, plus two rubber inserts that protect the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons. Contour leaves the headphone port, bottom, and ringer switch open, as well as a generous space to the left and right of the ear speaker, the entirety of the screen, and the Home button.
Putting protectiveness aside for the moment, we really like the designs of each of these cases. iSee is perfectly matched to the iPhone 3G’s curves, and shows off the entire device’s body in an attractive way. Rather than using a hinge like the company’s earlier Showcase and iSee cases, the two separate pieces snap firmly together on the sides, and can be opened with a strong finger or a coin in a small bottom right recess. With the exception of mold lines and the snaps where the two pieces come together, your view of the iPhone 3G’s front and back is basically unfettered.
Though the plastic is thick, iSee gives you the sense that the iPhone is safe against a drop while inside, and small finger indents in the centers of the left and right sides provide a convenient place to grip. Contour’s headphone port hole lets even very large headphone plugs coonect without an adapter. The bottom is Universal Dock compatible, and will work with all but the thickest third-party Dock Connector cables and full-width bottom-connecting accessories.
Regrettably, both protection and pack-ins are issues for the $30 asking price. No screen protector is included, which has continued to be an odd Contour Design omission during the iPhone and iPod touch days. The bigger surprise is that neither case includes a belt clip, holster, Dock Connector cover, or headphone port cover. All of those items were packed in with the iSee iPhone V3, Contour’s final iteration of iSee for the original iPhone, which both of these cases otherwise take after, and we’re actually surprised that Contour has kept the price the same given how much these cases lose in protection and versatility from the earlier version. On the flip side, the Sleep/Wake and volume button covers do a great job of protecting those parts of the iPhone, and don’t fall out of their recesses in the hard plastic, but do decrease sensitivity. You can pull them out if you prefer to use the buttons without encumbrance.
We really like everything here, except for the hugely exposed face; given that so many other companies do so, we know that it really wouldn’t hurt Contour just to include a full screen protector in these packages. Of course, we tested one with iSee, and of course, front film works without a problem, and provides greater peace of mind given how much of the iPhone 3G’s front speaker area has been exposed for the benefit of the proximity and light sensors.
Overall, iSee for the iPhone 3G isn’t quite as protective or feature-laden as the final version of iSee for the original iPhone, but it’s still a very nice case on aesthetics. If you don’t mind taking a risk on screen protection or buying some film on your own, consider this case a good option for showing off the color and curves of the iPhone 3G.